Monday, November 10, 2014

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes

The time is 1944. 13 year-old Paulo is looking for adventure. He is stuck at home with his sister and mother while his father is away. And nothing provides a better adventure like a midnight ride on a bicycle..unless where you live is Florence, Italy, and your city has been occupied by the Nazis.

While Paulo's father is fighting with the Partisans trying to retake Italy from the Germans, and his 16 year-old sister, Constanza, spends all day listening to records in her room, the fact is that Paulo gets bored. Few of us could imagine being bored when you're living in the middle of a war zone, but the need to stay close to home all the time, to not interact with those around you when you're father is a known Partisan, and being a young boy in a house full of girls leads to the need for something exciting to happen. So Paulo spends his nights sneaking out of the house on his bicycle, weaving his way through German soldiers. His adventure begins when he is caught by the very same people he seeks out, the covert anti-Nazi group which he desperately wants to join. The book keeps you wondering what will happen next as the Allied forces get closer and closer to Paulo's family and they become more and more involved in helping those forces in secret.

If, for some reason, the book doesn't hold your attention, then simply turn your attention to reading more about Shirley Hughes. She is 84, has written over seventy books for children in her lifetime, and illustrated countless more. (Probably close to 200.) She describes her own experiences of living in wartime England during World War II as being either terrifying or deadly boring, so she knows how Paulo feels. This is her first novel. If you want to hear from Shirley Hughes herself, check out the video on her website where she talks about how her wartime experiences have influenced her writing and illustrations:

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